I was at first a bit dismayed to read that Susan Moon ever felt abashed sitting zazen in a chair (“On the Cushion,” Winter 2008). But then I remembered Zen in the early days at Tassajara and in San Francisco, when some circles and practitioners, in my experience, adopted a macho approach to sitting posture. I also remembered a conversation in the eighties with a Japanese Jungian analyst named Hayao Kawai, who had an interest in Zen practice; he said that by loading Zen on top of our already strict Judeo-Christian culture, American practitioners burden themselves with too much severity.
Surely, whether one sits erect in a chair or in full lotus on the cushion, the “work” of Zen is with the mind and body as they are encountered. It sounds to me as though Susan Moon has found that element in her own practice. I loved her article as much as I loved her book The Life and Letters of Tofu Roshi so many years ago.
Joan Alpert Wentz
Thank you, Susan Moon, for telling it like is in making the move from sitting zazen in the lotus position to sitting zazen in a chair. The pride and self-esteem may be bruised, but the body thanks us for responding appropriately to our changing needs.
At the upper end of middle age, this article spoke to me because I spent a month in a group retreat a year or so ago and struggled every day with this very thing. I wanted so badly to master sitting cross-legged on a cushion on the floor for long periods of time and became better at this as the month went on. But many times a day I would retreat to the chairs at the back of the meditation hall. Nobody told me one way was right or one was wrong, but in my mind, the floor was first best, and the chair was second best. My hips and knees bothered me every day, but I treated it as if I was getting into condition.
However, the point of departure from the floor came after my retreat. An ongoing pain in my right hip followed me home from the retreat and has stayed ever since. It has been diagnosed as a type of bursitis. I stopped meditating altogether for a while, trying to avoid the whole situation. Recently I have picked myself up and found a good chair, realizing the obviousness of the insight that sitting on anything works better than not sitting at all.
I am grateful for Susan Moon, a seasoned sitter, for telling her story and giving permission to others.
Kincardine, ON Canada
Although I’m not an official Buddhist (or anything else official, for that matter), I’m a longtime Tricyclesubscriber. I appreciate the broad range of articles that have appeared over the years, particularly in more recent issues. They reflect the broad spectrum not only of Buddhist experience but also of a nondual perspective in general. Tricycle is one of many magazines I look forward to receiving but one of the few I read cover to cover—including the ads—when each issue arrives.
Joel Agee’s “Not Found, Not Lost” (Winter 2008) is a case in point. It rings true, like a gong’s solid tone. I appreciate reading articles that tell the author’s story without a lot of Buddha-speak (pardon the expression)—what Christians sometimes refer to as “the language of Zion,” the stuff people feel they have to say regardless of what they feel at the core.
Chances are you’ll get letters from the legalists decrying it, but Agee’s practice of no-practice sure sounds like the best of Buddha to me. Keep on sittin’!
I’ve been a practicing member of the Soka Gakkai International for over 14 years. In the beginning, I was very devoted to my practice and the SGI cause. Over time, however, I became slightly disillusioned because of certain pedantic ways in which the organization was run. I was also disheartened by the need to defend the organization and its tendency to be embroiled in certain political and religious controversies. But most importantly, I felt that I needed a silent meditative element to my practice that the SGI didn’t provide. Although I still chant nearly every day, I have also participated in Goenka-style Vipassana practice this past year, and I am always reading things by the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hahn, among many others. My subscription to Tricycle has enabled me to delve deeper in this ongoing research, and for that I am eternally grateful.
In any event, I am so very pleased to see this most recent interview with SGI President Ikeda (“Faith in Revolution,” Winter 2008). Over the years, I have heard firsthand accounts of his wisdom and compassion and read many of his books (best of all is Unlocking the Mysteries of Birth and Death). To finally have a Western publication unaffiliated with the SGI include a detailed interview with Mr. Ikeda shows me that the SGI is opening up its doors to the West in a manner that is long overdue. I’m simply happy to see a positive light shined on an organization that deserves respect. The SGI is an unbelievable conglomeration of sincere souls, all striving for happiness— and not only for themselves. You have re-inspired me. Thank you.
Los Angeles, CA
As a 34-year SGI member and a longtime Tricycle reader, I appreciate the coverage of SGI in your interview with President Ikeda. As someone who has been in the newspaper business for almost that long, I think the interview was fair to all concerned. Mr. Strand doesn’t practice with us, yet he sees some value in what we do. Nonetheless, he kept driving the questions about material benefit to the extent that Ikeda-sensei gave the clearest answer I’ve ever heard on this controversial subject. Great article! We’ve used it at numerous discussion meetings and introduced lots of folks to Tricycle, another great benefit. For myself, I always enjoy learning from other groups, and I have a lot of respect for them. Thank you for respecting us.
U.S. military base, Tokyo, Japan
comment posted on tricycle.com
SCIENCE, MEET THE MIND
Thanks so much for the article from Adam Frank (“Time & Again,” Winter 2008). What a pleasure to hear from a real scientist—someone who uses the tools of science to explore the unknown with an open mind.
BUDDHA IN THE BARRIO
Many thanks for making “Peace on the Street” your Winter 2008 cover article. As a retired alternative high school teacher, I applaud the Harlem program for having a “whatever it takes” attitude in saving lives in Harlem. One of my inspirations during my teaching years was Father Greg Boyle, a Jesuit priest whose organization Homeboy Industries works with gang members in the L.A. barrios. It’s been noted more than once that Buddhism adapts to the culture in which it finds itself. This time, the adaptation is helping gang members find a way off the one-way road to drugs and prison. Please keep up the great work!
A WRITER WITH A FUTURE
One of the best things I read in the Fall 2008 issue was the collection of reviews written by 10-year-old Olivia Donstov (“Samsara Dogs and Monkey Kings”). What a talented young lady! The description of each book was well written and to the point. Her reviews made me want to check out the books. Miss Donstov, you will go far in this world!
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